By Damian Dolan
A fundraising campaign launched by a Garryowen Gaelic footballer, who lost two sons to a rare brain condition within weeks of each other last year, has reached its target to purchase a much-needed breathing machine for a London hospital.
Charlie Corcoran, who lives in Neasden and is originally from Pomeroy in Co Tyrone, says the machine will help to keep the memory of his sons, Charlie Jnr and Noah, alive.
Both children were born with polymicrogyria – a rare genetic condition characterized by abnormal development of the brain before birth.
Noah was born on 11 June, but passed away just six hours later. Charlie Jnr tragically died on 4 July, just two days after celebrating his third birthday.
Charlie said it’s “wonderful” that they’ve reached their target.
“It’s a proud moment for us, as hard as things are,” Charlie told the Irish World. “Even though the boys are gone, if we can help other children it lets their memory live on.
“It’s brilliant to know that the memory of our boys is helping other children.”
He added: “We know what other parents are going through because we’ve been in that situation. The machine will help other children and families.”
Charlie, and his wife Sharon, set up a GoFundMe page earlier this year to purchase a breathing machine to help babies and young children with similar conditions to Noah and Charlie Jnr.
The machine, which costs £4400 excluding VAT, will also help children suffering from chest infections or bronchitis, or experiencing any breathing difficulties.
The machine has been donated to Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow, North West London, where Charlie Jnr spent a lot of time.
“Children with disabilities can sometimes have a lot more problems with breathing, and even children who don’t have disabilities, who get chest infections, need these machines to help them until they get better,” said Charlie.
Charlie was in action last weekend for Garryowen in the intermediate football championship.
A keen Gaelic footballer, he’d previously won an All-Ireland Vocational Schools Championship with Tyrone.
He moved to London seven years ago, but it was only last year, following the deaths of Noah and Charlie Jnr, that he joined Garryowen.
It was one of his hometown friends, who was playing for Garryowen, who first encouraged him to get involved with the club.
Charlie then received a call from Garryowen manager, Sean Igoe, who persuaded him to come along to a training session.
“He just said ‘come and meet the team – we can all help you out’. So I did and it’s helped a lot,” said Charlie.
Charlie credits Garryowen and the “whole community” that goes with the GAA, as helping him to “get back into things” again.
He added: “It’s Irish guys being together and everyone just helping each other out. It helped to keep my mind off things and to keep me on the straight and narrow.”
Once Charlie joined Garryowen, his brothers, Michael, Eddie and Kevin followed suit, as did his cousin, also called Eddie.
Charlie and Sharon may have achieved their goal of donating a breathing machine to Northwick Park Hospital, but Charlie says they’re not stopping there – they intend to keep fundraising.
Exactly what for and how remains to be determined.
“We want to help as many children as we can, to help the boys’ memory live on as much as possible,” he said.
“As heartbroken as we are, we know there are parents out there who have children in hospitals in vital need of these machines, especially the hospital we were in.
“There was only one machine and there were children waiting on it.”
He added: “The fact that we know we can help someone else in some small way, is so satisfying for us. Especially as it’s done in memory of the boys.”
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